Unbearable morning sickness

Dear Alice,

I'm around eight weeks pregnant and suffering from terrible morning sickness and nausea. I was hospitalized and on a drip a few days ago, and I was told that it is quite likely I will end up in the hospital again.

I've done many internet searches and spoken to lots of women who have also suffered from morning sickness, and have tried LOTS of remedies, including Maxolon and Stematil (prescribed by the doctor), ginger (crystallized and in tea), vitamin B6, acupressure bands, eating small meals often, eating dry biscuits before I get up etc., etc. Nothing seems to help at all!

I'm very sadly reaching the point of deciding on whether to go through with the pregnancy or have a termination, because it’s becoming impossible to keep working while being so sick (and I really need to keep working for the money!). I think I can put up with it for a couple of weeks longer, but I don't have enough sick-leave if I'm going to be this ill for more than a month or so.

Of course, I don't want to give up on the baby, but I'm getting very desperate!!! This pregnancy was by choice, but if I'd known how terribly sick I was going to become, I honestly would not have made the choice to get pregnant. (And I have decided against becoming pregnant again for the same reason).

Is there anything else I could try? Is there any hope?

Yours sincerely,

Dear Desperate,

Even though it's hard to imagine feeling better when you're sick, hopefully your extreme nausea and vomiting will soon diminish. After the first trimester, or around 12 to 14 weeks into the pregnancy, the nausea usually dissipates. You mention you're at eight weeks, so you can expect to notice a change in the way you feel within the next few weeks, which may feel like forever.

There is a chance, however, that the nausea could continue longer. Some women continue to experience nausea and vomiting throughout much of their pregnancy. Severe nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (NVP) is known as hyperemesis gravidarum, which can cause weight loss, dehydration, liver damage, and can even be life threatening to the mother and/or baby, if left untreated. Women who are at high risk for this condition tend to be of a younger maternal age, high body weight, pregnant for the first time, or pregnant with twins. A woman with this condition is considered to have a high-risk pregnancy and medical supervision throughout the pregnancy is required. Someone with NVP needs to be under the care of a high-risk obstetrician, also known as a perinatologist, throughout their pregnancy.

Also, additional treatments require a prescription by a health care provider, so conversations with your obstetrician may yield a treatment option that helps reduce your nausea. Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to approve an over-the-counter remedy for morning sickness, you can consult your health care provider about the possibility of taking medications considered safe to use during pregnancy.

Aside from the remedies you've tried, and linking up with a high-risk obstetrician, what else can you do to make this easier for yourself? Stress, anxiety, and worry can make the morning sickness and nausea worse. Perhaps you will feel better if you find ways to relax that work for you. For example, you can get a massage or soak in a warm bath, or establish a mild exercise regime that is approved by your obstetrician. Are there other things you can incorporate into your schedule to better manage your stress? Link up with someone you trust to talk with. That person can be a friend, a partner, a parent, and/or a professional counselor. And on the work front, talk with your supervisor or Human Resources department to see what options you have. Maybe you can work part time or at home temporarily. Of course, a steady income is a priority for you, but sacrificing your health will only complicate matters. It's good to tend to not only your physical, but also to your mental and emotional health.

While it may be difficult to think about it right now, having severe nausea during this pregnancy does not necessarily mean you will experience this again in subsequent pregnancies. Every day is a different day for your body.

Last updated May 01, 2015
Originally published Jun 18, 2004

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